With the release of Rise of Skywalker, we come to an end of an era for both Carrie Fisher and the role she made famous in Princess Leia. Today we honor Carrie Fisher with a look back at her life and achievements, along with her contribution to the Star Wars legacy. The iconic actor and writer suffered a heart attack that ultimately proved to be fatal. Only 60 years old at the time of her passing, Carrie Fisher will be immortal, thanks in part to General (née Princess) Leia Organa.
Carrie Fisher Was The Child of Stars
Fisher was born into a famous family, the daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher. With her trademark sarcastic wit, Carrie once said “I am truly a product of Hollywood inbreeding. When two celebrities mate, someone like me is the result.” Of course she was selling herself short in her self-deprecating way, because there is truly no one like Carrie Fisher.
Carrie began her career early in life. Her first screen credit is an appearance on her mother’s variety show Debbie Reynolds and the Sound of Children at the age of 13. Her brother Todd also appeared in this special, but Carrie was the one who went on to become an actress. However, the family legacy continues with her daughter Billie Lourd, who appears in the Star Wars trilogy as Lieutenant Connix alongside her mother.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Billie Lourd (L) and Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher Was An Accomplished Writer
Although most people know Carrie as an actress, she was also a published author and a highly sought after script doctor. She published her first book Postcards From The Edge in 1987, a fictionalized account of her own experiences with addiction and rehab. The novel was adapted into a film starring Meryl Streep that was nominated for several Academy Awards.
In the following decades, she published over a dozen books. She turned her memoir Wishful Drinking into a one-woman show that demonstrated her prowess as a comedienne. Her final release was The Princess Diarist in 2016. This collection of essays showed how much Carrie struggled in the long shadow of Star Wars, and how she finally came to peace with Princess Leia.
Image via Lucasfilm
Carrie’s transition from actress to author also goes back to her role in Star Wars. She began writing by rewriting Leia’s dialogue for Empire Strikes Back. She went on to work as a script doctor in Hollywood, revising dialogue and punching up scripts. Although most of her work went uncredited, after her death in 2016 many details came to light about how many films she had improved. She worked as a script doctor for hit films like Hook, Sister Act, and The Wedding Singer. It seems as though many male screenwriters turned to Carrie for help in fleshing out female characters. Fisher once said that her job as a script doctor often involved making “the women smarter, and the love scenes better.”
In Memory of Princess Leia: The Real Heroine of the Skywalker Saga
(Spoiler warning for Rise of Skywalker)
December 20th 2019:
— Mark HoHoHoHamill (@HamillHimself) December 20, 2019
Fisher spent years reconciling her real life identity with the persona of Princess Leia. In The Princess Diarist, she wrote “I had never been Princess Leia before and now I would be her forever. I would never not be Princess Leia. I had no idea how profoundly true that was and how long forever was.” In fact, at a tribute for Star Wars creator George Lucas, the speech Carrie Fisher delivered showed the conflicted admiration she felt for her alter-ego. It also brought the house down with laughter.
However it seems like she had finally made peace with the role by the time she reprised Leia in The Force Awakens. She also had a degree of creative control over Leia the second time around, once again writing vital dialogue for Leia in The Last Jedi. According to director Rian Johnson, Carrie wrote the final scene between herself and Laura Dern. She also worked in one last joke during her final scene with Mark Hamill, who was like her brother both onscreen and off. Of course it was a joke about Leia’s ever-changing hairstyles.
“No One’s Ever Really Gone”
Image via Lucasfilm
The tragedy of Rise of Skywalker is that it was always intended to be Leia’s movie. Carrie Fisher was anticipating having a larger role in the final film. With her untimely death in 2016, the filmmakers only had seven minutes of unused footage that they could utilize. The way they weave Leia’s final story beats into the movie is beautifully done, but you can still see some of the gaps where Fisher’s presence should be.
Star Wars begins and ends with Leia. The Skywalker saga belongs to her as much as it does to Luke. She was the first spark of resistance, and her death in Rise of Skywalker brings her story full circle. Leia began this fight so long ago, and the implication at the end of the final film is that her resistance has finally succeeded. She began as a plucky princess, and turned into a highly-respected General. She never gave up, she never ran away, she kept fighting until her final moments to bring peace to the galaxy. Leia was always the hero of Star Wars. Carrie once joked that her tombstone would have Leia’s name on it, but truly her spirit will always live on in generations of young women who look up to her iconic character.
Carrie Fisher Continues To Speak From Beyond the Grave
Photo by Riccardo Ghilardi via Wikimedia Commons
On December 27, 2016 the world lost a singular voice and a bright light when Carrie Fisher passed away. She was followed one day later by her mother Debbie Reynolds, with whom she had a complicated but close relationship. Since her passing, her brother Todd has revealed various conversations and snippets from her life to share with her fans. Only this week, he shared an eerie note about death that he found from her. In classic Carrie fashion, it is insightful and funny and strangely moving.
Although she may be gone, her words still resonate with all of us. Carrie’s posthumous message to her brother that appeared three years after her death almost sounds like she is reassuring all of us. “‘I am dead. How are you? I’ll see you soon … I would call and tell you what this is like, but there is no reception up here. Cut. New scene, new setup, new heavenly location. I have finally got the part that I have been rehearsing for all my life. God gave me the part. This is the end of the road I have been touring on all my life.”
Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.